I reach for the handle and push it down, letting the door swing open inwards in a slow arc rather than pushing it. Many emotions and a tangle of vibrant memories swell in my throat, and I stand there feeling the hot sting in my eyes until it recedes.
I step over the threshold.
Inside it's dark and cold, like a hollow tree rather than the home it once was, especially to me. It's like standing in the shell of a burnt out building. Though the building is intact, it's devoid of the hopes and fears that took place inside it. I open the door wider to let more of the evening light in, and for an instant it's like breathing the life back into a ghost. In the moment the single room is lit up by the light washing in, the room looks unchanged. Then my eyes adjust and I see the dust, the rot, the fading, the neglect, the emptiness. It's gone.
I look at the rickety wooden stairs that seem to be just clinging to the wall at the side of them, and my heart skips a beat as I see the pale face and the bright eyes. Then I blink and it's gone, just like everything else.
I find my way to the chair at the small square table and lower myself onto it, looking around. I feel the prickling on the back of my neck that I always feel when I think I'm alone, but this time I know that I really am. The thought of the place being haunted strikes me as funny, and before I know what I'm doing I'm laughing out loud. The sound resonates through the empty cottage and echoes back off the walls like a ghost just out of time. Then the laughing starts to hurt and it turns into an ache somewhere in my chest. I have to curl my arms around myself to keep it in, or it might burst out of me.
I close my eyes and remember, again.